Leadership: Featured Writer Blogs
- A Response to Critics of Soaring College Rec Spending
by Emily Attwood June 2015
“LSU Faces Dramatic Budget Cuts While It Builds An Expensive Lounging Pool” This was the headline of an article that appeared in The Huffington Post this past May criticizing Louisiana State University’s spending of $84.75 million on an overhaul of its recreation facilities despite a threatened $55.5 million funding cut from the state.
Last week New Jersey governor Chris Christie admonished what he considers wasteful spending in the higher education system, denouncing “extras” such as lazy rivers and climbing walls.
"Some colleges are drunk on cash and embarking on crazy spending binges,” he said.
If you work in college recreation, the incidents made you cringe.
The cost of higher education is going to get a lot of attention leading up to the 2016 election, and unfortunately, that’s going to come with a lot of misguided scrutiny of campus recreation programs.
What both incidents overlook — as anyone working in college recreation will immediately recognize — is that a university’s education budget and recreation budget are two entirely different things. Campus recreation centers are not built at the expense of science labs or classrooms. For most universities, such projects are funded (and maintained) from students fees.
"The funds for the project come directly from the student fee and can only be used for the project," LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard told The Huffington Post. "Similar to donations to the university or funds from the state for capital projects, these types of funds can't be shifted to fill in budget holes or be used in another way. They can only be used for what they were originally designated for."
The impact of such facilities on the price of a college education is actually minimal, according to David Feldman, economics professor at College of William & Mary.
“Lazy rivers are only a tiny piece of the costs,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “These lazy rivers are not the reason why student debt is soaring seemingly out of control. The big problem that higher education faces today, at the public side, is cuts in state spending.”
Some argue that cuts in spending are actually driving the construction of bigger and better recreation amenities, as universities look draw in more out of state students. According to research from the University of Michigan, “wealthier students [are] much more willing to pay for consumption amenities.”
Despite its negative headline, The Huffington Post article went on to admit as much, quoting a 2013 article in which former Miami University president James Garland explains, “We took advantage of low interest rates for municipal bonds and invested in rehabilitating our residence halls and eating facilities and putting in more recreation -- workout rooms and lounges, and the kinds of accouterments that really dressed up a campus and made it a much more comfortable and familiar place for upper-middle class students. So those students started applying to us in droves. Application numbers went up, we became more selective, and the SAT scores of the entering class became higher."
So, in the face of a $55.5 million budget cut (avoided, thankfully) LSU would need to rely more heavily on the appeal of its non-academic offerings to bring in more students and more revenue. As Jane Wellman, a finance expert with College Futures Foundation, told Inside Higher Ed, the issue is not of how colleges spend money, but the priorities of schools.
“The sense is that college costs are going up too rapidly, and institutions aren’t doing enough to control them,” she says. “The critique underneath that is the critique of the decision-making culture in higher education.”
Rather than ask why LSU would spend $85 million on a recreation center, maybe politicians should be asking why the state of Louisiana was mulling a $55 million cut to education.
We won’t get into the other complexities of campus recreation facilities, such as the positive economic impact of construction (According to NIRSA, $1.7B was spent on 157 recreation construction projects in 2012), the employment opportunities afforded to students, the educational programming opportunities, the importance of recreation to students' quality of life (and GPA), the role in building a schools’ reputation, or any number of issues.
Unfortunately, neither will the politicians pinning the climbing costs of higher education on climbing walls.
- Head Injuries Impacting All Football Levels
by May 2015
My 11-year-old godson is a tough kid. He plays big for his size (by comparison, my just-turned nine-year-old daughter is taller) and has shown enough ability to have his family — and me — believing he has a real future in sports. But that sport won't be football. After sustaining two concussions, his parents made the decision to pull him out of football despite his love of the game, and his relative success at an early age.
- Blog: Keep Athletics About Student Development, Not Revenue
by Andrew Barnard May 2015
I recently attended a conference regarding the future of college athletics sponsored by the Big XII and featuring four young, bright and successful student-athletes. The focus was primarily on issues affecting the Power Five Conferences: student-athlete stipends, image and likeness rights, the role (and cumbersome overreach) of the NCAA, etc. Esteemed members of a second panel discussion featured media personalities (all of whom played collegiate sports), a highly successful coach, a university president and the conference commissioner.
- Blog: Winning Fuels Seahawks in Frank Clark Case
by Stuart Goldman May 2015
The Frank Clark story just won’t go away. That’s because The Seattle Times won’t let it go away.
- Reflecting On My 2014 as I Turn Forty
by April 2015
One of the best (and worst) parts of working in the athletics, fitness and recreation industry is personally witnessing how many of my readers have gotten better with age. At the 2014 Athletic Business Conference & Expo, the exhibit hall was packed with veteran single-digit-body-fat attendees testing the latest and greatest in fitness equipment. Even Fast Company cofounder and keynote speaker William Taylor tweeted that it was the fittest audience he'd ever addressed.
- Blog: Living in the Wild, Wild ISC West
by April 2015
Being a first-time ISC West attendee, I had been warned to prepare for a “monster.” Boasting more than 1,000 exhibitors and close to 30,000 attendees, ISC West is the largest security tradeshow in the United States, and last week, I went toe-to-toe with the “monster” in Las Vegas. Yes, in a town built on gambling and taking risks, I was going to a show built on mitigating or eliminating risk.
- Blog: Can Today's Buildings Withstand Test of Technology?
by Andrew Barnard April 2015
I recently attended a regional conference for the Society of College and University Planners (SCUP). It’s interesting to hear about the wide range of issues that affect planning on college campuses, many of which translate to private development as well as to other institutions.
- How to Protect Against Rioting at Your College
by April 2015
Joe Monroe, chief of police at the University of Kentucky, has gotten used to protecting the streets of Lexington from rioting fans. He's had to do so frequently over the past few years as the school's men's basketball team, led by head coach John Calipari, has made four Final Four appearances the past five years. Last Saturday night, after the previously undefeated Wildcats were eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Wisconsin, fans took to the streets of Lexington (yet again). Monroe and his campus police team (yet again) had to protect the community and keep the peace in collaboration with city police. Monroe, who teaches special-event planning for NCS4 and Texas A&M, shares his experiences while providing advice to other campus safety professionals in this Gameday Security exclusive interview:
- Blog: Madison Prepares for the Best, and Worst, Tonight
by April 2015
There was never any doubt that chaos would reign supreme across the streets of Lexington, but those that bleed Kentucky blue (and many that don't) expected that chaos to come tonight after Kentucky completed its perfect season with a victory over Duke. Instead, that time frame was accelerated to Saturday night when John Calipari's McDonald's All-Americans fell to Bo Ryan's Wisconsin team 71-64 in the NCAA men's basketball national semifinal.
- Blog: Destroying the Student-Athlete — A Cautionary Tale
by March 2015
For far too many college athletic programs, acting in the best interests of the student-athlete is pure fiction. From academic fraud to sexual assaults, colleges and universities have frequently failed their student-athletes by putting their best interests ahead of the student-athlete's. These failures extend beyond what is making national headlines, and can happen at the most unlikely of institutions — in my case, a Catholic university.